Therapy & Training

Tonight, we picked up Daddy at work so we could attend a “Spending Revolt” rally at the coliseum. Being that it took place at their bedtime and all, the kids didn’t make it long, but at least we made it out to the event. But the funny thing was that it didn’t dawn on Stephen and me till we were pulling in our driveway some 2o minutes from his work that we never stopped by to get his car after the rally — a fitting anecdote to typify our zany lives.

Mommy takes the twins for a ride on the Lazy River @ our Surfside Beach condo.

I suppose the big news is threefold. First, Gabriel and Zeke start speech therapy this week. Last week, they had their evaluation with “Miss Pat,” who determined that Zeke scored in the third percentile and Gabe in the fifth on their standardized evaluation for “expressive speech delay.” As said previously, they’re in the top of the charts for hearing, comprehension, following multi-step commands, etc., but they just don’t feel it necessary to use that many words we big people use.

So, Gabriel and Zeke will be meeting one on one with Miss Pat for 45 minutes a week — Gabe on Tuesdays and Zeke on Wednesdays. I am confident they’ll respond quickly to the individualized sessions with Miss Pat, who seems to be the perfect, caring, laid-back but on-the-ball fit for the double trouble we’ll be sending her way starting tomorrow. (Vocabulary update: Zeke’s current favorite words are “nah nah” (Daddy) and “byun byun” (pumpkin), and Gabe’s are “moo” (moon), “doo doo” and “poot” … you probably don’t need a translation for those last two.)

Second, Houston used his last diaper yesterday. We polished off his pull-ups a while back, but still had some sleep diapers left. So we’d let him use them for naps or at night, if he so chose, but always reminding him that once they were gone, they were gone. Of course, he has accidents on occasion, but I’d say he’s 99% there. And to top things off, Gabriel peed in the potty before his bath last night, proudly mimicking big brother. If all three of my boys would soon be out of diapers, I’d be the happiest mommy around.

Zeke (foreground) & Gabriel trek up the Liberty Loop path.

Third, Houston is no longer taking naps on a daily basis. It had become such a struggle to get him to fall asleep (and to do so without waking up the twins). On those days when Houston would nap, he’d end up getting in to bed way too late at night. And on those days that he absolutely refused to sleep, I ended up wasting a bunch of time dealing with his shenanigans, frustrated and wondering why it had to be such an ordeal. Well, being that I get him into bed around 7 p.m. on his napless days, he’s still getting about 12 hours of sleep a day. So, Houston’s well-rested, I’m happier, and Gabe and Zeke have much quieter naps now.

Other stuff … Granny and Grumps came to visit for Labor Day weekend. This gave Stephen (a.k.a. Daddy the handyman) the time he needed to fix our dryer and me the opportunity to work on demolishing our encroaching kudzu. To get to the invading vine and all of its roots, I had to cut an access path into our backyard mini-forest.

While back there in the thick of it, I decided it would be a great idea if I connected the backyard path I made in the spring to this new one. And so was born “Liberty Loop” — a steep and adventurous circular trail that provides the boys lots of entertainment and exercise, and Mommy lots of teachable moments on the subjects of hiking and the great outdoors.

Houston poses for a shot w/ a firefighter @ the “Healthy Kids, Healthy Smiles” fest.

Also in early September, we got professional family portraits done at JCPenney. Let’s just say that Zeke did not want to cooperate and our pics may eventually find their way onto awkardfamilyphotos.com. Overall, though, I think they turned out as good as can be expected and do a fine job of capturing in still shots what a wild ride it is here around the zoo.

Then our pediatric dentist put on the “Healthy Kids, Healthy Smiles” festival. The event featured all sorts of emergency vehicles and personnel, games, play equipment, free toys and dental stuff, as well as free popcorn and Ruth’s Chris sliders — both huge hits with our hungry dudes!

More recently, Aunt Lisa and her awesome boyfriend, Albert, visited Clan Dillingham for a few days. We had a blast with those two cooking freaks and thoroughly enjoyed consuming all of the delicious appetizers, meals and snacks they created for us. Moreover, Lisa and Albert both love kids, so the 3 Amigos were in heaven with all the extra attention and fun.

With boys covered in food, making a mess & screeching like banshees, it’s just a typical mealtime for Mommy.

Then a couple nights ago, we went to a surprise birthday party of one of Stephen’s co-workers. The kids had a great time playing with wrestling action figures, playing pinball, climbing stairs and barstools, exploring the backyard, enjoying meeting new people and staying up way passed bed time.

Click the above photo to view all the September – Part 1 pics; the hiking shot for Part 2 stuff; HL and the firefighter for some of our around-town fun; and the top pic for more beach shots … and a hardy thanks goes out to a nice lady named Amy who took it upon herself to snap these pool photos and actually email them to me after the fact. Very nice.

Speech & the Beach

Friday, like everyday, Houston said something that cracked me up. “I like this song,” he explained as we listened to the bluegrass station on satellite radio. “I think it’s about Jesus … or maybe it’s about Star Wars.” Three year olds are so funny and, man, do they love to talk! Houston is “full of potatoes,” as I like to tell him (as opposed to the other full-of phrase). There isn’t any subject that boy won’t broach, nor is there any vocabulary or phraseology he won’t tackle.

Kara & Houston have a blast @ Surfside Beach!

As far as the twins go, Stephen and I have been somewhat concerned about their language delay. Gabriel and Zeke know what we’re saying; they can follow directions; correctly point to objects in books; sign; have fine hearing; and make some sounds and utterances we can relate to what they’re trying to convey. But the boys simply don’t speak that many understandable words. Speech-language delay is quite frankly common among boys, among twins and among preemies — obviously, categories in which Gabe and Zeke fall — but we are still planning on forging ahead with some speech therapy for them.

We came to this conclusion after having them undergo developmental screening over the past month. For a while there, Stephen was convinced Gabriel and Zeke had autism. Combine the facts that Stephen adores all his boys, the twins do have some speech-delay issues, and Daddy got somewhat obsessive about his autism research on the Internet, and you have a parent who was convinced his kids had a life-altering condition. Since I was already a tad worried about Gabe and Zeke’s speaking abilities, I agreed to have the twins see a developmental doc. Not only was I fairly certain this professional approach would allay Stephen’s fears, but the doc could also refer us to a speech therapist, if necessary.

“Have your people call my people,” says beach super-star Gabriel. 

This saga started on 8/12 when Stephen and I had our parent meeting with Dr. Kuhn. Then Gabriel had his 2-hour evaluation on 8/19 and Zeke had his on 8/26. Stephen and I had our follow-up with the doc on 9/1, and his diagnosis was that Gabriel and Zeke are both right on track with all of their development (social, cognitive, emotional, physical), but they are experiencing some “expressive speech delay” (i.e., they understand language and commands, but they just aren’t using that many articulable words themselves — chock that up to twin talk or their near six-week prematurity or that they have their needs met without having to use much English.

Long story long, it’s all good: Daddy is much less stressed about everything, Mommy’s relieved that Daddy’s not so anxious anymore, and we’re both happy to get Gabe and Zeke some no-big-whoop speech therapy, and then they’ll be talking as much as big bro before we know it. It’s hard to believe that one day soon the twins will be expertly expressing some of the crazy thoughts that toddlers have. Like tonight when I told a sassy Houston, “Don’t back talk to me like you run the world, young man.” His confident reply: “I do run the world, Mommy, ’cause I’m a big boy.” Pretty soon we’ll have three boys giving us lip like that. Whoa.

Besides all that, here’s what else is going on:

8/12: During Papa, Gramsey and Kara’s visit, Papa bought Houston a reading lamp that hooks to his bed. Houston is really proud to have the lamp and now doesn’t have to strain to read his books and comics while lounging in the sack. Also, cousin Kara brought her Nintendo DS during their visit and got Houston into learning how to play on Daddy’s mini-gaming system. He has obsessively mastered the DS since then, so much so, that we’re now having to limit his gaming time; otherwise, that boy would play DS from dawn till dusk.

Doesn’t this old photo of Papa bear a striking resemblance to Houston?!?

8/13: Daddy helped me take the 3 Amigos to their dental appointment. Gabriel didn’t cry at all, Zeke only whined a bit when the hygienist had to scrape some tartar off his teeth and Houston showed a huge improvement over the last traumatic appointment, which is seared into my psyche. No, he didn’t love having people poke around his mouth, but he was pleasant both before and after the cleaning.

8/14: Daddy and I took the boys to Dixie’s 4th birthday party at a rockin’ place called the Little Gym. It was evident at the party that Zeke has morphed into the adventurous one — he’ll be the one jumping out of airplanes one day, not Gabe, which used to be my assertion; Gabe is a major mama’s/daddy’s boy; and Houston is somewhere comfortably in between. Houston and Daddy then went to the mountains for a couple of days to attend the Houston Family Reunion. Houston really turned a corner with his potty training while there and Stephen actually came home with pull-ups to spare.

8/15: Mommy, Auntie Merdy and the twins attended the Women’s Hospital NICU Reunion. The fun-filled event featured a tumble bus, tattoos, blowing bubbles, a teddy bear clinic, a toddler rec room, a touch-a-truck table, a massage for Mommy and lots of free food!

8/17: Houston took his first doo-doo in the potty. He is solely wearing big-boy undies, except sometimes during naps, at night or on outings, like going to the Y. He also enjoys peeing outside when we’re playing, as well as peeing off the deck — something I have stressed is ONLY okay to do in the privacy of our own back yard.

Ever dauntless, Zeke stalks this big bear @ the NICU Reunion.

8/18: I ended up having to take all three hoodlums to Zeke’s gastro-intestinal check-up, and they were actually very well behaved. I notified his specialist that I tweaked one of Zeke’s prescriptions, which he is supposed to take three times a day, either an hour before he eats or two hours after. Turns out that Zeke’s sensitive system reacts much better to the meds when he takes it with food. With the exception of his bout with a 24-hour tummy bug at the beach, Zeke hasn’t puked in weeks! Z-Bird weighed in at 28 pounds, 10 ounces (Gabe weighed 28 pounds, 2 ounces at his session the next day with Dr. Kuhn). After the appointment, we strolled to my nearby eye doc to pick up my contacts. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the loud and bustling walk along the big-city streets.

8/21: We took the kids to another great party for Maddie’s 5th birthday at Bounce-U. Unfortunately, I was unable to snap photos ’cause Daddy and I were actually too busy participating in the fun to help ease the kids’ intermittent apprehension regarding some of the more thrilling “bounce stadiums,” as they are called. Cousin Casey also made a brief visit to the zoo to hang out and take a break from her long road trip to Tulane University, which will be her new home, while she earns her doctoral degree in French. We’re so proud of you, Casey!

8/22-8/25: Mommy and the boys trekked to Surfside Beach, South Carolina, to spend some fun in the sun with Auntie Dina, Kara and Uncle Richard.

  • Arriving late, the first night was horrendous. Zeke had some sort of stomach bug and vomited (like I had never seem him) three times that night and once the next morning. I was sharing a California King bed with the 3 Amigos, so that was a sleepless night, for sure.
  • “Mama’s boy” Gabe whined almost constantly the first full day there and, shockingly, neither he or Zeke liked the sand or the ocean. Houston, however, loved the beach and had a blast playing in the sand and surf with Kara and Dina. We then hit a kid-friendly pool at our resort, which was a bit more the twins’ speed. After Dina kicked our butt’s at Scrabble, I got a better night’s sleep with my flip-flopping boys.

Synopsis of Gabriel (left) & Zeke’s 1st time to the beach: NOT impressed.

  • On the second day, Dina watched Gabriel and Zeke so I could take Houston and Kara to the beach. Houston karate chopped waves, got used to the taste of salt water, braved a few underwater slips, and enjoyed building a sand turtle under Kara’s strict direction. We then we hit the pool across the street from our condo. Meanwhile, the twins let their hair down with Dina and then the entire posse went to the fancy pool again. I managed to fit Gabe, Zeke and and myself (with Kara’s help) into an inner tube to float along the “lazy river.” By this time, Zeke’s bug was gone, but Gabriel’s cough and everyone’s runny noses were pretty darn bad. Yet, we somehow had a restful night in that big communal bed … thanks in large part to Richard buying a replacement for Gabriel’s strange comfort item: an empty baby bottle.
  • Our last day, I woke up feeling terrible. I wasn’t sure if it was pure physical exhaustion from toting around three burly boys at the beach or the tummy bug or both, but after going to the regular pool with the gang, I showered and napped with the twins while Houston went to the beach with Kara, Dina and Richard. I painstakingly packed up all our gear and made the 4-hour drive home, even once pulling over to hurl on the side of the highway. Looking back, this mini-vacation was a lot of work, but worth the hassle ’cause the kids had a great time. Thanks for putting up with us, Dina, Kara and Richard … and thanks, too, for making us feel so welcome at your timeshare, Richard!

8/30: It was my 39th birthday, so the dudes and I celebrated by donating tons of outgrown toys and clothes to my charity of choice and then spending a couple hours at a downtown park.

9/3: Daddy and Houston went to their first high school football game of the season. Despite his denied request to take his recorder so that he could accompany the marching band, Houston had a wonderful time with Daddy and playing on the bleachers with a mutually hyper boy in a Toy Story t-shirt.

A few randoms … Houston has successfully worn his is big-boy undies to children’s church and used the potty there. At his request, he has also used the real toilet at home while standing up. Gabriel can adeptly use the pedals on the trike. He is also quite a ninja at opening anything and everything. And Zeke is an artistic genius at sidewalk chalk and is also very proud of his new words: “Mama,” “ah ceam” (ice cream) and “mmm bah” (school bus).

Click the above photo to view all the Surfside pics and the Zeke-and-bear photo to check out latest additions to the August gallery.